Kristan Rivers is the CEO of AdInMo – an in-game brand advertising platform. We caught up with Kristan to discuss his working life during the pandemic, and the overall impact of Covid on both the advertising and gaming sectors.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of in-game brand advertising platform AdInMo. We deliver engaged customers for advertisers and quality monetization for game developers and publishers by serving click-free immersive brand ads that don’t interrupt game flow. Imagine racing games where the billboards dynamically show brands relevant to the player, or casual games where puzzle pieces are branded.
As is typical for any CEO at an early stage company, my day-to-day role involves everything from sales to fundraising to chief coffee-maker. In my experience, the key remit for a leader is to bring together a great team and then relentlessly remove any obstacles they may face.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
The biggest change has been a change in how I interact with my team. We relocated the company from the US to the UK in early 2020, and were about to sign a lease on an office as lockdown hit. As a tech company, using workflow tools such as Slack was already part of team comms, and both our developer community and brand advertisers are global so video calls are also business as usual. However, as the company is growing rapidly we’ve also had to perform job interviews over video; in fact I haven’t even met some of the team in person, despite them being in the same city!
Communications in the pandemic is democratised through digital channels, but, as a very social person, I don’t believe it can or should replace in-person meetings for relationship building, be that with the team or with customers.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Although my commuting time has dropped significantly, there are still never enough hours in the day. In both my personal and professional life, I like to be challenged and the only way I can do this and maintain my sanity is to enforce a structure on myself.
We use Slack and Trello and I do whatever my calendar app tells me. I also try to take time out a couple times a day for some form of mindfulness exercise, and I still do some of my best thinking on a bike ride.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
I’m inspired by Amazon’s response to the pandemic, especially their focus on employees and customers and making their whole supply chain pandemic-proof. “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small” – that’s a pretty amazing way to start a quarterly report, and evidence of their commitment to long-term thinking.
On a smaller scale there’s no limit to the examples of entrepreneurialism among small businesses, getting creative to help communities or just to survive. ‘Pub desking’ is a great example of a sector having to innovate and adapt.
What changes are you making to help your company connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
At the start of 2020, as a young company, we simply didn’t have many of the processes that a larger organisation would have. This was actually a blessing for us, as it allowed us to build an organisational framework that was informed by the “new normal”, without having to break or change existing structures.
The mental and physical health of our own team is paramount; we communicate regularly with the whole team to ensure everyone feels supported and informed. Beyond using tools such as Slack, we start the week with a townhall at 9am and finish up with Friday beers. Externally, we have donated a percentage of our in-game ad inventory to run ads for #ProtectTheNHS.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
It’s been reported that gaming has been up 35-60% since the pandemic started, especially among Gen Z and Millennial audiences who list playing video games as one of their top three pastimes.
Here at AdInMo, we see similar uplifts in our own stats, both in time spent in games and overall in-game ad traffic. Likewise, the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation seeing a shift towards digital marketing and the need for brands to build relationships via low-human contact channels.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Brands and agencies are recognising the power of mobile games as a channel for customer engagement and brand building, especially among the hard to reach Gen-Z and Millennials who exist in an entirely digital world when it comes to their consumer media consumption.
The uncertainty of advertising during the pandemic, and especially in a post-IDFApocalypse mobile world, means that advertisers must be very careful with their spend. We’re having a lot of great conversations with brands and agencies that are looking to lean in on new channels like gaming.
The key to successful in-game advertising is ensuring that the ad format is sympathetic to the game experience. This is why AdInMo in-game ads work so well, and generate on average 3x higher brand recall than traditional interruptive 30-second video ads, or completely ignorable banner ads.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your company?
As we expand our business, we include the whole team in the discussion on what kind of company we want AdInMo to be.
As one of our steps toward long term strategy, we recently underwent a rebranding exercise to better deliver our own brand messages to our two key customers: brands and game developers. It’s very exciting and more than a bit humbling to undertake our company journey during these turbulent times, but we have built a great team and platform that is ready for the challenge.